DONALD HONIG – The Sword of General Englund. Captain Thomas Maynard #1. Scribner, hardcover, 1996. No paperback edition.

   Honig has written a number of novels, but the only two I’ve read are his historical baseball stories, The Plot to Kill Jackie Robinson and Last Man Out. I thought both were quite good. Honig is a former professional baseball player himself.

   In the year of the Little Big Horn, 1876, not too far from there in the Dakota Territory, another General was killed. This one had a Bowie knife driven up to the hilt in his back, on the same night a Corporal was stabbed and killed. An investigation by the Post command failed to find the killer, but came to the conclusion that one of the command staff was probably guilty.

   From Washington, a young Captain, an up-from-the-ranks veteran of the recent War Between the States, is dispatched to find the truth. He eventually does, but it is not what he — or anyone else — expected.

   This is one of the better books I’ve read this year; maybe not a ’96 Edgar nominee, but a very good book. The investigator, Captain Maynard, is a very believable and interesting character, and Honig’s third-person narrative is excellent. The book is about people and their relationships, but also about the horrors of war and the minds and mindsets of the professionals who wage it.

   Hornig does a fine job of recreating the spirit of the times, and the atmosphere of a godforsaken army post in the middle of desolated Sioux country. The only flaw I found in the book was the use of a couple of flashbacks early on at seemed awkward and out of place when never repeated. The infelicity (if it was one) was soon forgotten, however. Honig has consistently delivered in his three books that I’ve read.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #22, November 1995


BIBLIOGRAPHIC UPDATE: A second and final novel featuring Captain Maynard was The Ghost of Major Pryor (Scribner, 1997).